Homicide responses show Durham frustration

jwise@newsobserver.comJuly 16, 2013 

Mike Andrews

DURHAM COUNTY

Homicide wasn’t on the agenda, but the Durham Crime Cabinet heard what’s on a lot of people’s minds: the city’s spate of homicides.

“I came to this meeting in the midst of a crisis,” attorney Charlie Reece told the group of elected and community leaders Friday. “What I’m not hearing is any sense of urgency ... about what’s happening in our community.”

Reece got several responses.

“We’re a frustrated public,” said Thomas Poole, also speaking from the audience.

Sheriff Mike Andrews said law enforcement officers are “out there, every day, on the street.”

“We need the community’s involvement,” he said.

As of Monday morning, Durham had seen 15 homicides this year. In all of 2012, there were 21.

If the current rate continues, the 2013 total would still fall short of the record 43 killings in 1996 – 27 by July 15.

Durham has averaged 24 homicides per year over the past five years, according to police, and there have been six cases just since June 16.

City Council candidate Eddie Davis raised the issue, asking the Cabinet members – city, county, law-enforcement and judicial officials who meets bimonthly – whether there was “any current discussion” about the “recent rash of homicides.”

“Obviously, it’s a concern,” said City Manager Tom Bonfield. “There was a press conference the mayor held a couple of weeks ago talking about the issue.”

Reece spoke up after Davis’ question brought only several other general responses.

“What I was hoping to hear was that there was a law-enforcement effort to be more vigorous ... some kind of effort by the City Council, county commissioners,” Reece said.

“The Durham Police Department, the sheriff’s department, have been vigilant,” said Poole, a former facilitator with the Partners Against Crime group for eastern Durham. “Going door to door, walking the streets, doing all they can.

“We’ve got parenting issues, child-poverty issues ... domestic violence. ... too many problems,” he said. “The thing about it is to keep on with what you can do. If you can keep your house in order, that’s a step.”

Andrews, and Bonfield, said the public needs to keep authorities informed.

“The families know what’s going on. The friends of the families know what’s going on. The friends of the friends know what’s going on,” he said. “If someone would just pick up a phone ... say, look, they’re carrying guns, then let us do our job.”

Reece said he didn’t mean to say authorities weren’t doing their jobs; but he had expected the Crime Cabinet authorities to have something to say about the killings of the past four weeks.

“It took folks from the audience to have this conversation we just had,” Reece said.

“The reason you’re not getting a sense of increased urgency is that this group and all of these other groups that are working in Durham have felt that sense of urgency for a long time,” said City Councilman Don Moffit, a Cabinet member. “You’re also hearing the frustration that people are feeling.”

Wise: 919-641-5895

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